As the 2017 wedding season winds to a close, I've spent some time reflecting back on what I've learned since I started. This year in particular, I put a lot of focus on intentional growth, and nurturing the business side of my business, and I had a few aha moments and learning experiences that I wanted to share. None of these are groundbreaking by any means, and I can't help but think how obvious some are, and realize that sometimes you just have to learn things the hard way.
1) Your time is valuable, not just in a monetary sense
Pricing is so hard. I think everyone who starts out realizes it’s probably harder than the actual calligraphy and design work. I could go on and on about pricing, but I’ll leave that for another post. What I really want to say is that it’s important to think about what a job will cost you that money can’t make up for. I used to think that as long as I was making money on a job, it was worth it. A great example of this is how my views on minimums have changed. I used to not like the idea of them, and think I’d never charge them, because I was making the “correct” amount of money per piece, so what did it matter how large or small the order was? Well, after a wedding season full of lots of late nights, and small orders, lets just say, I now charge a minimum for some things (I’m looking at you, signage). I finally started looking at jobs not just in terms of how much money I would make, but what I would be sacrificing by taking them on. Things like sleep, time with my husband, exercise, social events, etc., that I could never get back. Once I did that, I realized that once a job got below a certain price, it wasn’t worth what I was giving up to do it, even though I was still getting paid.
2) You can do anything, but not everything!
When I first started, I tried to do everything! I was all about, “say yes, and figure it out later,” for awhile. Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, and I think it can be helpful when you just start out, because it helps you get familiar with lots of different types of projects, and learn what you like and don’t like to do. Where I really did myself a disservice with this, however, was trying to do whatever calligraphy style was asked of me. I still hadn’t completely figured out my style, and I typically told clients to send an example of whatever style they liked, and I’d do something similar. This all sounds well and good, but it lead to me stressing constantly about whether what I was doing was matching the requested style well enough, and holding my breathe until I heard that the client was happy. Rather than feeling proud of my work at the end, I just felt relief that it was okay. I didn’t enjoy what I was doing as much, because I didn’t have confidence in my work, and was second guessing myself. After awhile (probably too long), I realized that I wasn’t doing myself any favors trying to do it all, and decided to just offer my modern calligraphy style. That decision has made all the difference, because I’m so much more confident in the work I’m sending out, and enjoy it so much more. Have I lost some jobs because my style didn’t fit? Absolutely, but I also realized that clients who want a different style will be so much better served by another calligrapher who does the style they like, rather than me pretending I can. I do hope to have time to practice and develop another style or two, but for now, offering one style works best for me, and my business.
3) Share the work you want to do
Once I figured out my style, and the work I wanted to do, I made sure that’s all that was showing on my website, and social media. Now, when I get inquiries, not only do I know I’ll be able to create something the person loves, but I know I’ll enjoy creating it. I used to have a much less edited portfolio that included work from my early days. Work that I honestly didn’t want to do again. Every once and awhile I’d get a request for one of those things, and I would hate that I had to do it! I quickly realized that I had no one to blame but myself though, because if I didn't have it in my portfolio, it never would have been requested. I will say that editing my portfolio is much easier after three years of work, since I have so much to choose from, but even if you are just starting out, I think it’s important to remember that the work you share is the work you will be asked to do.
4) Don’t forget where you came from
It can be so easy to look at what everyone else is doing, and feel like you aren’t doing enough, being creative enough, progressing enough, and instead, it’s so important to look at where you started, and recognize your own progress, and all of the things you accomplished that you never thought you could. I definitely still fall in the trap of comparing myself to others, but I try to be quicker about reminding myself that God has a different path for everyone, and all I can do is focus on my work, and make it the best it can be. I think it’s also easy to forget to celebrate your successes. I remember when I started, I dreamed of being featured on a wedding blog, working with a certain planner, getting a certain number of followers, and then those things happened and I barely noticed, because I was already looking ahead to the next milestone. Make sure to take some time to celebrate your achievements, and look back at what you’ve accomplished and be proud of your hard work.
I could say a million other things about these past three years, but these were what I really wanted to share, and I can't thank you enough for reading! In the spirit of reaching for the next milestone I'd really love it if you would also comment, and let me know what you thought.